Wednesday, 25 June 2014

A healing path

Image

 Forest and Distance, Watercolour, Roslyn Ross, 2013.
Because every human being in the world is unique there is no one path to healing, but many, and this is no more than thoughts on one approach.

We all need to find The path to healing for ourselves, at some time or another, whether disease is physical, psychological or a combination of both,  but there is not one way, just the way which works for us.The path to healing can be long or it can be short, but it always is a path and one on which we can find ourselves at any time and one which will be unique to us. There is a phrase used for when we are unwell and that is, ‘we feel out of tune.’

Dis-ease or a lack of ease in terms of bodily health is a sign that we are operating with a discordant tune, or rather, not with or through our natural tune or ‘song.’

The belief that the universe has its own ‘song’ has been long-held, and if the universe has its own ‘song’ or ‘songs’ then why not we?

Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician and philosopher, is credited with saying, “There is geometry in the humming of the strings. There is music in the spacing of the spheres.” This idea of the “Music of the Spheres” has endured over the centuries, ultimately informing how Kepler visualized the movements of the planets, which led him to formulate his laws of planetary motion. The notion that the stars, planets and galaxies resonate with a mystical symphony is a rather appealing one.
Depending upon how well, and there is a pun in that which is apt but not intended, we know ourselves – in other words, depending upon how ‘in tune’ we are with ourselves – then so is our health reflected. When we are ‘at odds’ with ourselves, for whatever reason, and whether it is inner forces or outer forces, or a combination of both, then our body, striving always for balance, will seek to create some level of order or harmony.  Many healing methodologies believe that this is what symptoms are: a language the body uses to communicate its dis-ease to us – to speak out and speak to us.

When we are unhappy about something we use words because we can. If we do not have words, like animals, we use expressions or actions. The body can use words in our dreams or in Freudian slips but generally it uses symbols. Psychiatrist, Carl Jung, said ‘symbol is the lost language of our soul,’ and when our body speaks it is often because our soul is calling.

The language of the body has been largely forgotten and ignored in this age of materialistic and mechanistic medicine, but seeking to understand what the body is saying and trying to communicate is not only a wonderful adventure, it is an invaluable practice for health.

You are not just your body and disease is never just physical. It does not matter what genes you have, the fact is that nothing is predetermined and as science now knows, a hundred people with the same predisposing gene might provide one person who actually develops the disease. Why that happens is not just physical or even environmental but is a combination of all that we are and all that we experience. Understanding as much as we can about that, is a part of this path to healing.

Nothing happens without good reason. Everything has a purpose and in terms of physiology, it is the purpose and meaning of the body function which says, to me anyway,  that it is pure common sense that whatever the body does, no matter how trivial, is important. We are, each and every one of us a universe in our own right and utterly unique. And never more unique than when we manifest symptoms or dis-ease.

More than one noted doctor writing about health and disease has remarked that ‘in a strange way’ diseases seem suited to people. In one cited instance it was noted that those suffering from Crohn’s Disease were invariably difficult patients, irritable, testing and often annoying. Were they that way because of the disease or did disease manifest in this way because of who they were? The general view seemed to lean toward the latter. Who is to say but perhaps if the patients had studied their symptoms as symbol they would have both learned and healed. And no, it is not that simple and the comment is offered merely as reflection in terms of changing the way that we see our symptoms or condition.

I  also, suspect that such observations were more common in the days when doctors were physicians and actually took the time to study the patient and gather knowledge about the individual in ways which seem rarely to happen today. In other words, you were not just your symptoms or your disease, but your symptoms and your disease are expressions of your state and of who you are and the reason that they exist is because who you are is not who you are meant to be. There is dis-ease or a lack of harmony between who you ‘are’ at this time and who you really are.
An Australian doctor, John Harrison, wrote an excellent book exploring this in the late 80′s called, Love Your Disease It’s Keeping You Healthy. His book was controversial and he was in time brought ‘down’ by the medical establishment in questionable circumstances.

He was misinterpreted and misunderstood although reading the book at the time I never saw evidence of the charge later laid against him, that we were to ‘blame’ for our dis-ease. I saw it as him saying we had responsibility to lesser and greater degrees for our diseases, symptoms and dis-ease and that only in gaining understanding, could we play the necessary part in healing.


Questions we can ask ourselves in regard to our symptoms or disease are:
What does this prevent me from doing? It might prevent you doing something you like or something you hate.
What does this enable me to do? It might enable you to do something you enjoy.
What do I lose from this condition? Power, freedom, responsibility, obligation….?
What do I gain from this condition? (And surprisingly disease often provides positives as well as negatives.) Freedom, dependence, sympathy…
How does it make me feel? Depressed, powerless, peaceful, safe….
How does it make me think? More thinking, less thinking, time to think, fearful ….
How do I see myself as a person because of this disease? Ugly, crippled, unworthy, safe, free….positive or negative.
What could or would I do if I did not have this disease/condition? The answers are not dependent on possible, physically or financially, anything goes to show you what you would wish to be….
Who would or could I be if I did not have this disease/condition? Again, what does the condition prevent? It might be positive or it might be negative.

But Harrison would not be the first or the last person to be burned at the metaphorical stake for questioning the position science/medicine takes toward the body and disease. The scientific paradigm from which modern medicine emerges creates, almost by necessity, a ‘war and battlefield’ approach to illness where the body becomes a dangerous enemy, not to be trusted, often to be feared if not hated, and always the ‘other.’ The tragic irony of course is that it is this same ‘enemy’ that we need to be our friend, our healer.

How many friends would we keep if we mistrusted them and saw them as a dangerous enemy? Not many.
How many relationships would endure if we believed that we were in a ‘war for survival’ against our friend as so many believe about their body? Not many.
How many people would be crushed to be feared if not hated? Most.
And yet this is how many people react to their body frequently, and when they are ill, much of the time. As a position it is not only counter-intuitive, it is oxymoronic.
It is only in finding purpose and meaning in our symptoms and disease that we can convert them from enemy to friend, which was the core of what Harrison tried to say, and in the doing, create an alliance for health.
It is not that we are to blame for ill health or that we create it, although we can act in ways which compromise healthy body function,  but that the disease and its symptoms reflect perfectly who we are and why, and, as healers throughout history have believed, offer us insight into why we are ill and the path to health.

The better you know yourself the better choices you will make on a path to healing. And everything can be important. Not in an obsessive and agonising way, but in a self-aware, reflective way.
In the same way that compiling a list of the most common sayings in our family when we were growing up, often phrases we still use without thinking, can offer insight into what we believe unconsciously even if we tell ourselves we do not believe it consciously.
For example, a common one as I grew up was: ‘It’s a great life if you don’t weaken, once you weaken you are gone,’ is a belief that life is dangerous and unless you remain vigilant and strong you will be destroyed. It is often in the colloquialisms our parents used and which still litter our life unconsciously, that we can often pick our way through to the truth of who we really are.
And with that understanding you will better know if you are someone who should pursue a purely Allopathic path; someone who should pursue a purely non-Allopathic path through some or many of its various forms, or someone who should combine all medical methodologies as and when they seem suitable.

In a process of broadening options there is sense  in a position which holds that anything should be considered and possibly explored when it comes to health and no-one is going to deny the material/mechanical skills of modern medicine in surgery and trauma. Being open to anything and everything, which is actually the approach of the newly emerging field of Integrative Medicine, makes most sense to me. But we are all different and that remains the salient point.
There are a wealth of methodologies which can play a part in healing depending on what suits you, beyond a conventional Allopathic approach and most if not all of them, can work hand in hand with that anyway. Explore Nutritional Medicine, Homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine including acupuncture, Ayurvedic Medicine, Herbal Medicine, Kinesiology, Reiki, Yoga, Aromatherapy – anything which works to comfort and/or heal the body.

One other reason to consider incorporating non-Allopathic treatments is that as treatments they are generally benign, not unpleasant, in fact often very pleasant and even a delight sometimes. Most Allopathic treatments involve clinical situations where you are more object than person, even when medical staff  are warm, caring and kind, and levels ranging from discomfort to pain. Some treatments are very painful or unpleasant and most involve levels of fear. Even Allopathic drugs are, more often than not, the source of unpleasant if not frightening side-effects.
While it is not always possible I have often thought no doctor should be able to order a procedure that he or she has not themselves experienced. More than one doctor on becoming seriously ill has gone on to write insightful books about their traumatic experiences as patienst in ways that they had never realised or appreciated until they experienced it. I am sure they came out the other side better doctors but the fact remains that Allopathic or modern medicine is one of the least patient-friendly methodologies ever created.

It is however, the way it is because it has come out of a scientific paradigm which believes everything, including the human body can be approached as if it were a piece of equipment and ‘repaired’ accordingly. This can work brilliantly with the mechanics of surgery and trauma but has a negative impact everywhere else. Some surgeons and nurses realise this, and use Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Reiki and other such methodologies to treat the negative impact associated with their procedures.

There is no doubt that modern medicine often involves high levels of fear and where there is fear there is resistance and with resistance comes separation and none of it is conducive to healing. That is why it is so important to change how you think about your body and your symptoms and/or condition.

In fact the military mindset of the Allopathic approach works against healing because the ‘battlefield tactics’ of ‘destroying, removing, killing, or poisoning’ the ‘enemy’ serves to trigger resistance in the object of the attack, which invigorates and stimulates a desperate response and bid for survival.
In years to come no doubt, both the ‘battlefield mentality’ of Allopathic medicine and the part the mind of the doctor plays in treatment and healing will be seen as major factors. Many patients both fear and dislike their doctors but ‘do what they are told’ because of fear. No doubt many doctors dislike their patients and fear failure and loss of ‘prestige,’ so the fear factor is present and often too powerful. The more you can do to remove fear from the equation, that of yourself and that of others, the better.

And for some people who are seriously ill, it might be a case of the less people you know the better because what they believe and think about you and your situation, no matter how many expressions of love there may be, and no doubt how sincere they might be, what they think will be felt, known, intuited and picked up by you. And the less people you tell then the less advice you will get and that is generally a good thing. It is one thing to pick up a book or an article to read of your own free choice, and quite another to have advice inflicted upon you by all and sundry once they know you are ill.

Having said that, some people like, need and want all the advice and sympathy they can get which really just takes us back to the core premise of what works for one does not necessarily work for another. But as a general rule, the more you can do to help you and your body feel good the better. Illness brings enough ‘cold pricklies’ as it is and they need to be countered with even more ‘warm fuzzies.’

On the path to healing it helps you and your body to feel good as often as you can and many of the medical methodologies dubbed alternative, or complimentary, although they are medicine in their own right, are pleasant and comforting to experience. What comforts you comforts your body. What makes you feel better makes your body feel better. The more relaxed you and your body are, the better your health and the better your chances of optimum health.

And there may not be many of them but there are MD’s who are open to or even trained in other medical methodologies and who work with them alongside conventional treatments. This is more common in Europe, those very sane and sensible Europeans, than it is in Australia or the US or UK for that matter and one of the things I loved about living in Europe was having an MD who was just as likely to recommend herbs, homeopathy or acupuncture as a FIRST step before more interventionist procedures and toxic drugs.

But more than anything what you do for yourself will bring the most dividends and understanding your symptoms and condition is crucial toward that end.
Every symptom has meaning and every symptom will manifest as a collection which is unique to you, although there are shared patterns. One medical methodology, Homeopathy, has combined art with science, and I use the word science in its pure definitive form, in using symptoms as a guide to healing.

This  is a medical methodology sourced in noting and working with these patterns to find a remedy, whose ‘signature tune’ will resonate best with your true ‘signature tune,’ and, in the doing, ‘cancel out discordant frequencies’ to re-establish order. In essence and in modern parlance to ‘reboot’ you back to a ‘default’ position which represents your own unique truth, or ‘song.’ Where there is harmony, then there is health.

A core premise in Homeopathy is that when healing is triggered, the body will move slowly backwards through various disease states until it reaches balance. This can happen quickly or it can take weeks, months or even years. Generally with chronic illness the longer you have had it the longer the healing process. And vice-versa for acute conditions. But basically Homeopathy treats the individual as opposed to the Allopathic focus which is the disease or the symptom or symptoms.
This is why with a hundred people consulting for the same presenting disease, or major health problem, there will be potentially a hundred different symptom patterns and a hundred different remedies selected. Homeopathy also believes that simply repressing or removing a symptom can serve to drive dis-ease deeper which is why the Allopathic approach often does not or cannot cure despite the enormous knowledge gained of the material mechanics.

Traditional Chinese Medicine takes a similar approach but symptoms, as a diagnostic tool, has been taken by Homeopathy  in particular, to brilliant levels. Acupuncture, which is 3,000 years old and which also works at the ‘frequency’ or ‘energy’ level can also be highly effective. Medicine is like any ‘tool’ where the right tool in the right circumstances used in the right way will bring the right results, and there is no one-size fits all, instant fix, or magic pill for everyone despite common belief.
Just as no two people have the same disease in the same way, so no one treatment will necessarily work for both. We are all different and finding the methodology which best suits us, or the combination of methodologies which best suits us, is a crucial stage on the process to healing.  But here again, everyone is different. Some people will do it quickly and instinctively or intuitively, and others will do it slowly and with painstaking analysis and consider

However, because all medicine has both placebo and nocebo factors, all people benefit from having a level of trust in the treatment that they choose. You do not need to understand how it works and most people have little understanding of how most Allopathic medicine works, they are just assured that it does and it can.  In truth, many doctors and drug manufacturers do not fully understand how or why something works either. So knowing, or not knowing,  how something works is unimportant in the scheme of things.

With Homeopathy for instance, there is no absolute theory of how it works, but work it does and neither is there for Acupuncture, but work it does. But it does help to have a level of trust – not faith, just the sort of trust which comes from having a treatment make sense to you – consciously or unconsciously and preferably both.
Which takes us back to knowing yourself as the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece forever admonished their initiates. If you believe in a rational approach at a conscious level but unconsciously hold the opposite view, no treatment is likely to work. And vice versa.
All of the faith, logic, reason, trust and belief at a conscious level,  in the world, will not bring cure from a particular course of treatment if you do not also believe the same at an unconscious level. And few if any of us know exactly what we believe unconsciously. Gaining insight comes through studying symptoms, dreams, feelings and even thoughts.
Likewise, if you are totally opposed to a form of treatment at a conscious level, and consider it cannot work, or is even a fraud, it can still bring cure if you believe differently at an unconscious level. And where a treatment does not work, particularly if the doctor believes it should work, it is an indicator that what you believe at a conscious level is not what you believe unconsciously.
This is why some people can believe powerfully at a conscious level the treatment will work and they will live, and yet they die and why some can believe powerfully there is no hope and the treatment will fail, and they live.

And because some of us may never truly know ourselves at an unconscious level and all of us will succeed to varying degrees, it is important, where healing is required, to keep an open mind. Perhaps even more important than trusting the healing process you choose is not just trusting your practitioner, but liking them. If there is no connection between you and your medical practitioner, whether Allopathic or not, then the chances of cure will be diminished. One of the most powerful factors in any medicine is nocebo and given the often toxic forms of Allopathic treatment, never more so than in modern conventional medicine.
At the end of the day the body heals and the body can heal anything. Any medical treatment is there to support and assist the body in doing what only it can do. Miracles of cure and healing are only miracles as a definition. Miracles are no more than that which we do not understand.
So, if you want to be healed from any disease and be ‘singing your song’ as robust health, bearing in mind that we are not all created equal and some people can attain levels of robust health which are a part of their physiology and nature in ways others will not, then the first thing is to make friends with your body.

Too much of modern medicine is sourced in a fear, if not hatred of the body and certainly in high levels of mistrust where symptoms and disease are seen as betrayal and the body as an enemy. If we treated our friends the way many treat the body we would have no friends.You only have one body and you and your body are in this for life.
Beyond you and your body there are the medical practitioners you choose as companions on the path.  You all need to get on and trust is the glue in that relationship. It is particularly important with Allopathic drug treatments because apart from often being toxic to varying degrees, they are generally synthesized versions of natural ingredients which are designed to ‘trick’ the body to bring about a desired effect. Many drugs work as ‘imposters’ and their effectiveness requires deceiving the body.
I happen to believe that consciousness exists at all levels, including cellular and that just as we become confused or fearful if we are tricked or if an imposter gets into our home, so too there is a similar effect for the body at micro and macro levels. The physiological and chemical deception needs to be countered with levels of trust elsewhere and that makes your relationship with your Allopathic doctor more important than it might be with natural and harmless and if you like, ‘honest’ medical methodologies like Homeopathy, Acupuncture or Herbal Medicine.
So, a few guidelines to be applied flexibly and as they suit because if you hate doing something even if you think it is good for you, or are told it is good for you, then it is not going to do much good for you. Every mouthful of tofu or swig of wheatgrass juice that you loathe is doing harm, not good.
And if you hate being told what to do, or being held to rules and regimen, then apply ‘rules’ in moderation. Use a 9-5 approach to it all and give yourself the night off, or, apply the rules during the week and forget about them at the weekend.

The only rule which is best applied in all circumstances is ‘moderation in all things,’ and for the rest, what works for you is all that matters. So, just some thoughts:
1. your body is your best friend and you are in this together. Whatever you can do to help your body needs to be done. That means eating food you enjoy but generally food which is as natural and freshly prepared as possible for this is where nutrition lies and nutrients are the true medicine which keeps and makes us well.Variety is important and if there are nutrient deficiencies then put some focus on foods rich in these.

Sleep is also crucial and with any illness sleep is even more important because this is when the body repairs and restores. Sleep is a habit and the habit you establish and maintain will bring better sleep. Again, everyone is different and sleep patterns range from five to nine hours a night. If you are ill you  will need more sleep so try to get seven hours solid sleep, keeping regular hours.
Drugs to help you sleep do more harm than good because they interfere with sleep patterns and therefore with the ability of the body to repair and restore. Study the functions of organs during different stages of sleep in Traditional Chinese Medicine and where you have identified organ dysfunction, then act accordingly.
Reduce toxins in food and drink and environment. Sleeping in a room with electrical equipment not turned off at the socket is a source for toxicity. It might not matter a toss when you are well, but everything can help when you are not. In fact, with any serious disease it can be a good idea to move your bed because where we sleep can involve detrimental factors in terms of feng shui principles.
2.  Symptoms are your body’s attempt to establish some level of balance in ways you do not understand and also an attempt to ‘get your attention’ and communicate with you. If you do not listen they will get louder and louder and ‘shout you down’ in even more disturbing ways.
Listen contains the word List, so List your symptoms and try to understand them symbolically. That means all symptoms – emotional, psychological, physiological, circumstantial and if it applies, spiritual. When you take the time to ponder the meaning of a symptom you honour it and your body.  Everyone likes to be appreciated whether it is a heart murmur or dandruff. It all matters.
If you are creative then write or paint your most troubling symptoms. As with dreams, you don’t have to interpret or even understand, you just have to record them which honours them. We all feel better when we are heard.
Write down your dreams for these also constitute symptoms and a language the body and psyche use to communicate with you.
3. Creative expression is more important for some than others but it helps everyone to express their feelings, thoughts and fears creatively. Music, painting, writing are creative but so too are  reading novels or poetry, gardening, cooking, meditating, knitting, embroidery, carpentry, furniture restoration and hobbies – even collecting barbed wire as some people do. Creative expression takes you out of yourself and beyond disease, at least for a time.
4.Resistance will always make things worse.  If something does not suit you then don’t do it. Don’t force yourself to meditate if you hate it or go on a diet which supposedly has cured other but which makes your life miserable. What you hate creates resentment and resistance and that is not the way to healing. If your dis-ease stops you from doing something you love, try to find something else you can do that you love or, sit awhile with your symptom and have a chat about what it is trying to tell you. Co-operate, or, as Dr Hamilton said, ‘love your disease.’ If your gall bladder or any organ is acting up, don’t hate it, turn to it with compassion and send it love. Be kind.5. Exercise is vital for some and a bore for others but again, moderation matters and if you are spending most of the day sitting then moving in some way is a good idea. Particularly outside. A walk around the garden is enough. Standing in the kitchen cooking for a few hours is exercise.  The idea that active, formal exercise is the only exercise is delusional. If you don’t love jogging then don’t do it. If you don’t enjoy yoga then don’t do it. But give them a try if you feel like it. If you don’t then don’t.6. Find a medical practitioner you like and to whom you can relate and who can relate to you as a human being. Remain open to your choices for healing. And the reason you need to like them, although you don’t have to ‘take them home’ or become friends, is because liking is a determinant of connection and it is only through connection that we find healing. At the end of the day connection is a form of Love and Love always heals. Your medical practitioner may be charming, polite, even witty but their unconscious beliefs and their unexpressed conscious beliefs will also be major factors in your healing. The nocebo effect of doctors has prevented more cure than probably the placebo effect has ever aided it. You and your medical practitioner need to be on the same page. Every medical treatment involves placebo and nocebo effects.
7. Humour remains the ‘best medicine.’ Remember to laugh. If you don’t know people who make you laugh find some. Watch comedies. Read humorous books and cartoons and try not to take any of it too seriously, even when it is serious.
8. Moderation in all things applies to all things including medical intervention. Less is more when it comes to subjecting your body to medication because all of them have side-effects and unless they are absolutely crucial and not a part of the ‘maybe medicine’ movement where you take a drug for a disease you do not have and may never get, try to keep them to a minimum.
The less your body has to deal with toxins of any kind the better. This also applies to vaccinations and if you believe they are useful then by all means have them but keep them to a minimum. Vaccines contain a variety of toxic chemicals along with synthesized diseases which challenge the body on many levels and increase the number of ‘medical tricksters’ which need to be dealt with.
9. If you can, then do your own research and as much as possible make up your own mind because this is not just informing it is empowering and it is also one of the most effective forms of ‘preventative medicine.’ Some people will research a lot, some a little and some none but given that few of us would buy a car or take out a mortgage without doing some research, when it comes to our health it makes sense to do some. In the internet age, while one needs to be cautious and read across the spectrum, there is little excuse for not finding out something about your condition. And even if you are committed to one approach or the other try to read across the spectrum to provide balance. No-one gets it all right and there are plenty of extremists on the non-Allopathic side of medicine as well. A large dose of the ‘tonic’ common sense will stand you in good stead and take as needed.
Beyond that, as with everything in life there are always other factors involved and plain old-fashioned fate and destiny. No medical practitioner can ever gaurantee cure and so, even doing all that you can there may be only partial cure or no cure. But, you will have done your best which is all any of us can do, and with any luck, learned a lot about yourself along the way and learned to love your body, whatever happens.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The new religion is medicine and the new God is science and your priest is now your doctor......


If we do not have something to fear we will invent something to fear .....

After living for many years in quite a few Third World countries I have long been curious about the level of fear which is apparent in the developed world compared to those countries, which, because of their circumstances and nature have good reason for most to fear many things, much of the time and yet, where the Fear Factor is less.

What is it about developed nations which has them scrambling to gather together and maintain, a myriad of potential fears along with a host of imagined ones?

Is it that the archetype of Fear is and must be a part of human life, to lesser and greater degrees and when we have little to fear in any real sense, we must invent things to fear? And is it also that in a world where most have little faith and no trust in any God and little or no trust in those ‘authority’ figures of the past who could be seen as trustworthy, that we feel more vulnerable and frightened?

I am not arguing either for faith in God or faith in authority figures, in fact, quite the opposite, but merely exploring the source of such largely irrational and unnecessary fears and ultimately questioning why it is that we are drawn to fears and then to the need for some authority figure to quell those fears.

There is no doubt that ‘real’ and tangible fears are easier to deal with in some ways because they are identifiable, and we are always more comfortable with certainty, however much of an illusion it might be, than possibility.

Perhaps finding something to fear, which can be called real, whether it is or not, diminishes the fear factor because we know and can see quite clearly with what we are dealing. And if society agrees this is a real fear, we feel even more comfortable although the fear may only ever be something ‘agreed upon’ within the society which is why it exists in the first place.

So, while living in a literal war zone, or amongst severe poverty and oppression, will always bring demonstrable and real fears in ways that living in a civilized and secure nation does not and cannot - in the absence of fear, so we may feel comfortable, fears must be found.

Perhaps, without real fears and subjected to ‘free-floating anxiety’ with fear being a natural part of the human condition which kept us ‘alive’ and ‘safe’ from monsters, mastodons and marauders throughout millennia, we are therefore driven, albeit unconsciously, to invent fears in order to assuage the underlying anxiety and create an ‘illusion of certainty’ in regard to what we feel but do not understand.

And of course, when we invent fears we must then find ways to handle those fears, because to live with fear and do little or nothing, is for most intolerable. And for that we also have an innate impetus – we need to find someone or something we trust to save us.

God was very useful for this in the past because God in various forms was more powerful than we were or than mum, dad, or the king would ever be and was good at multi-tasking. God could pretty much take care of any fear, anywhere, anytime, or, at least offer the illusion that this was being done depending upon one’s ability to have faith.

The question in the modern age, in those nations which have least to fear, seems to be: Where can that fear be ‘hung’ in the first place so we can tell ourselves we know what it is we fear, and who, or what, can we summon to deal with it and save us from its threat? And there must be a ‘place’ to put our fear, whether real or imagined, and there must be someone or something who can save us, for without either, the path leads only to madness. That too being a part of human nature which we sense even if we do not know it as a literal truth.

In times past people put their faith and trust in God, priests, kings, queens, lords, leaders, politicians, teachers, lawyers, bank managers and those supposedly reliable and trustworthy bastions of society. But those days are gone and these days the ‘person’ it seems who is generally most trusted, is likely to be a medical professional, a nurse or a doctor.  And also up there will be those who are involved in the realms of keeping us safe in some way, as research into who it is, or what profession is it, that we most trust.

The evidence is that Americans are the most fearful people on the planet it seems, fearing their Government in ways that other developed nations do not, despite being the most religious of developed nations, so clearly having God around does not help much.  The Americans invented the Preppers, a group of people, numbering millions, who are so fearful of what might happen and the potential dangers they may face,  that they feel a need to dig a hole and bury themselves along with huge quantities of guns, water and baked beans!

 Although, to be fair, the religious belief in the main in the US, is invested in a God of fear and retribution so there is little comfort and more fear added to the equations. But the Fear Factor seems to be part and parcel of modern life in the developed world to lesser and greater degrees, everywhere.

Finding out the source, and/or the focus of our fears can be aided by knowing which professions are most trusted. Human nature being what it is, we are going to need to trust those whom we consider to be most useful to us.

Americans trust doctors and nurses most of all, swapping around with the number one spot. The British also trust doctors or nurses the most with teachers second and scientists third, so one and two fall into the ‘save us from death, disease and danger category.’

Australians are a bit more pragmatic with, in 2013, doctors coming sixth on the list of professions we trust and nurses at number four. However, Firefighters, Paramedics and Rescue Volunteers at one, two and three, are also connected with death, disease and danger, as are Pilots at number five-  and who would get on a plane if we did not trust them - and Pharmacists at number seven, and so equate in general with the new religion and faith in the ‘medical’ profession, or rather, those professions and systems which we believe can keep us safe and alive.

And Europeans are more akin to Australians with 1. Firefighter | 2. Nurse | 3. Pilot | 4. Pharmacist | 5. Medical Doctor, but the common factor in all is that trust is placed in those professions involved in the areas of death, disease, danger.

Given where people choose to place their trust it is not surprising that the most prevalent fears revolve around disease and death in ways which are delusional when one considers the circumstances in which most live in developed nations. Most people do not face starvation or even malnutrition and neither do they face a threat of deadly epidemics given the high levels of sanitation. If they are injured badly in an accident they have ready access to a hospital which offers surgical and trauma skills of which people in the past and still in the Third World, can only dream.

There is no denying that the greatest skills of modern medicine are in surgical and trauma! Living in the Third World requires a degree of acceptance and pragmatism where a car accident where you are injured is likely to have you transported, as I learned from experience, to a clinic some hours away where a doctor might be on hand and where the d├ęcor is largely blood-spattered concrete and the X-Ray machine, if it exists, is broken, or there is no-one around who knows how to use it.

And yet, with less certainty, and perhaps because of it, people living in such circumstances are less consumed with fear than those cossetted by First World standards and care.

We have never been better fed, living in more secure, safer and more sanitary conditions and we have never faced less threats and yet people living in the developed world seem to live with more Fear than those who still do face such real threats as famine, war, poverty and disease.

It is as if we cannot help ourselves. If we do not have something to fear we must invent something to fear. It is as if we do not have a God in some form that we fear we must invent a God that we fear. It is as if we do not have some terrible threat in the form of advancing hordes of murderous barbarians or the Black Death breathing in the gutters of our streets, that we must invent some terrible threat.

The wailing and raging and moaning and fearing now goes not into the sight of ‘fires burning on distant hilltops which signal the enemy is near,’ nor in’ pustules appearing on a neighbour’s face as rats scurry around the kitchen’ but in what we eat or do not eat, how often we exercise or do not exercise, whether we have obeyed the instructions from the health professions which we are told ‘will save us’ and had the myriad countless tests, the modern version of Christian absolution  in ages past, which means we have been good enough and have been obedient enough, to have been ‘forgiven’ for the countless sins we must surely have committed as members of this new crusade against the heathen enemies of disease and death.

It most certainly keeps many, perhaps most, distracted if not obsessed and as pious and as righteous in their faith as people have been throughout history. There is still religion, it is just a new religion. There is still God, it is just a new version of God. And there is still the most terrible fear driving it all.

Plus ca change….. or, the more things change the more they remain the same. We remain, as human beings, not much different to that which we have always been and forgetting this fact means that we will not have beliefs so much, as beliefs will have us!

And the new belief, faith and trust has been vested in science/medicine – for good and for ill.

As Olivier Clerc so insightfully articulated in his book, Modern Medicine – The New World Religion, the imagined fears are mostly fixed on health, which really means an obsession with death, and where the new God to be placated and pacified, is modern medicine in the form of your doctor!

As Clerc says:

“Medicine, then, has become the new world religion. The specific myths, beliefs and rites of Christianity have been unconsciously projected over medicine since Pasteur. As I explain in detail in my book, we can establish a very close parallelism between the catholic religion and modern medicine, although, for lack of space, I cannot go into all the details of each comparison in this article. In brief:

- physicians have taken the place of priests;

- vaccination plays the same initiatory role as baptism, and is accompanied by the same threats and fears;

- the search for health has replaced the quest for salvation;

- the fight against disease has replaced the fight against sin;

- eradication of viruses has taken the place of exorcising demons;

- the hope of physical immortality (cloning, genetic engineering) has been substituted for the hope of eternal life;

- pills have replaced the sacrament of bread and wine;

- donations to cancer research take precedence over donations to the church;

- a hypothetical universal vaccine could save humanity from all its illnesses, as the Saviour has saved the world from all its sins;

- the medical power has become the government’s ally, as was the Catholic Church in the past;

- "charlatans” are persecuted today as "heretics” were yesterday;

- dogmatism rules out promising alternative medical theories;

- the same absence of individual responsibility is now found in medicine, as previously in the Christian religion;

- patients are alienated from their bodies, as sinners used to be from their souls.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Relationships which rely on the written word are problematic

The internet is a new medium and like all things contains the capacity to be both gift and curse.

Aggression is more common in internet exchanges than one finds in the real world and for all sorts of understandable reasons, and in moderation, is no real issue.

However, when it degenerates to a Lord of the Flies scenario, as it can and as is increasingly raised by psychologists,  it is more problematic. What is it about internet interactions which makes aggression so much more common?

It was interesting talking to a friend last night about workplace relationships and the problematic issue of email exchanges which seem to be a lesser version of the internet exchanges but where people misunderstand each other frequently. This is more common when people are not working in the same office and while there may be some personal knowledge, there is not regular contact or physical relationship.

We wondered if there was a 'labelling' going on unconsciously, sourced in the only real information available, which was 'how the person wrote.' We are so used to classifying people on how they dress and often on their accent that it seems human nature to want to 'find a place' for people or to want to have some understanding or knowledge of them even though the label may be completely wrong. If we cannot be in the same room with them and all we have are their words on the screen then that is what we will try to decipher so we can gain some understanding, or control of the relationship.

People who can be articulate and direct in their email communications are often seen as aggressive, we decided, when in fact they are just being articulate and direct. And any impression of aggression equates with a sense of power and the kneejerk reaction is often defensive, if not aggressive and before long, offence is taken.

If this happens at work where people have some knowledge of each other and in families where people have a great deal of knowledge of each other, and it does, then it is hardly surprising it is so much worse on the internet where there is no real knowledge of each other.

For one thing many people hide behind pseudonyms and in that anonymity obviously feel safe to say what they want in anyway that they want. No doubt the insulation provided by anonymity also makes them more reckless and less disciplined in terms of how they behave and this means the unconscious will be more active and projection more common.

But even where people are known to others there can be a tendency for the cryptic 'dig' which is possibly sourced in the fact that it is just so easy to 'have a go' at someone online without having to deal with repercussions in the real world, although that is also likely to be fallacious.

Or is it that many do not appreciate the circumstances in which they relate and understand the courtesies required in the written word which are more important because one does not have access to the senses, nor often, personal information, which allows a better assessment of what someone says and of who someone is?

I am sure after many years as a journalist there is a heightened awareness of the power of the written word and the capacity to misunderstand, misinterpret, misquote and misread what someone is saying in ways that most people without this experience, mostly cannot have. What is written on a public forum has the potential to be a legal document and there can be a fine and often misunderstood line between libel and slander and humour and honesty.

And the majority of people interacting on line have no experience of the power of the written word, nor an appreciation for the need to be considered if not cautious in what you write, how you write and to whom you write and perhaps that is why aggression has become a factor, to lesser and greater degrees, in online communications.

Erring on the side of courtesy and consideration and imputing the best of motives to people when assessing what they have said is wise. And if someone you know has embarrassed you by 'having a dig' publicly then don't get into a brawl in public - raise it with them privately.

And just as we choose our friends, we also need to make considered decisions about sites where we comment because while most are absolutely fine, some have cultures of paranoia and venality which are best avoided.

Any online site, like any club, or organisation is as good as its management. Moderated sites can be intensely annoying because they are often selectively over-moderated but unmoderated sites can be a literal nightmare.

Like anything new there is a strong element of 'winging it' with social networks and online communication and the reason why so many of the more professional sites have Moderators is because without them, conversation would be more likely to degenerate to the most base level.

As someone who believes that words have power at a frequency level, choose your friends, acquaintances and connections carefully online for aggression and unpleasantness are not good environments for anyone.

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-05/30/online-aggression

Friday, 6 June 2014

When honouring turns to worshipping and we raise up false idols.

How easy it is to create false idols! How literal we can be in identifying our false idols or any idols for that matter.

I look at the numerous ceremonies of remembrance for World War One and Two and it seems to me that honouring has morphed into revering and from there to worshipping, in ways which do not honour either their dead or their sacrifice, but which calcify history  and mould it into rigid 'statues' and statutes which are then raised up and worshipped, not because of what they might represent, but for what they are seen to be.

The deification of those who fought in war has turned such events into religious dogma and no doubt this is the source of much of the Judaic and Christian writings - so it begins, in that process toward turning historical events into theology.

The victors, who always get to write history are the 'goodies' and those who lost are the 'baddies,' in such a simplistic and literal sense that projection onto a defined 'other' becomes a given. Nothing happens in a vacuum, not even war and murderous psychopathic tyrants do not appear out of nothing, suddenly, with no past which needs to be understood. The tyrants of this world have always been with us. The tyrants who get most effectively demonised are those who lose wars.

Stalin killed far more people than Hitler did and yet the endless parade of films, books, documentaries, generally presenting Hitler as some sort of  sub-human demon, would have people believe, and no doubt some are ready to believe, that the Second World War happened because someone evil came to power and everyone who fought against him was good. It is not that simple. It was not that simple.

Hitler was as much a creation of Germany at the time as he was of the world at the time and of the world in which he grew up and came to power. Everyone is and when we do not understand those circumstances, or gain the perspective which played a part, we will never understand enough to prevent it happening again.

And that is demonstrably clear. Hitler was not the first and not the worst despite the hyperbole and propaganda that would have it so, but neither, tragically was he the last. More to the point, with its State sanctioned terrorism, the United States, aided and abetted by its sycophantic lackey allies, has, since the end of the Second World War, killed as many if not more people in its militaristic adventures and wars, than Hitler did.

But never let facts get in the way of propaganda or as someone once said: There is no truth in war. But until there is truth in and about war we will never be able to rid ourselves of this scourge. Perhaps it is because deep down, many of us know, that it is all a charade, that we need to glorify our victories in war, sanctify those who fought in our wars, forget the war crimes we carried out - like the bombing of Dresden and dropping the two atomic bombs on Japan - and lose the truth and ourselves in the theatre of what we tell ourselves war was and is about and the fantasy of who we were and what we did in those wars.

War is neither noble nor heroic. There are heroes in war always but they can be found on both sides and in the middle, which is where the civilians live and die and suffer. But war itself is never something to be honoured even if the acts of individuals are deserving of honour - whether they count as enemy or ally, whether they start a war or end it, whether they are what is called 'good' or what is called 'bad.'

In recent decades there has been some appreciation of this fact, but not enough.

For all the poppies crushed under millions of feet for nearly a century; for all the fading footage of our ‘heroic’ soldiers fighting the craven enemy; for all the billions of words spewed forth in honour and rememberance; for all the crass and cloying documentaries and films made of the two world wars; for all the shuffling, aging soldiers dragged out with tears in their eyes and horrors in their minds; for all of the tedious, demonising, eternally repeated stories of the ‘monster’ Hitler and the ‘less than human’ Japanese, and occasionally the ridiculous Italians; for all of the sanctimonious braying into the ‘faces’ of the defeated and all of the knife-twisting into the metaphorical backs of long-gone and mostly dead enemies – nothing has changed!

And I find that shocking. Not only that, when these ‘holier than thou’ ceremonies come round yet again, it is a reminder of how shallow, ego-driven and pointless most of it has been and is.

Yes, yes, I realise it is healthy for those who have fought in wars to process trauma but does it really need such pompous circumstance?

The US president, Barack Obama, spoke in solemn tone about sacrifice and heroes, going on about the 'glories' of D Day when he is responsible for personally selecting targets for drones to drop bombs, which kill  civilians - innocent men, women and children. He and his allies were responsible for the million plus killed in their illegal, immoral and unnecessary wars waged against Iraq and Afghanistan and yet, here he is, droning on, and don't forgive the pun, about the nobility of war.

Am I the only one weary of this egregious hypocrisy?

I wonder how much thought, time and effort would or will go into ‘remembering’ the equivalent events of D Day in US-allied led wars against Vietnam, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan?
Probably little but then we lost those wars and it is human nature only to want to remember the victories.

I think I am weary of the glorification of the Second and First World Wars where the West gets to be the good guys and the baddies get to be ritually humiliated every year.

And yes, I do know that in more recent times there has been attempt to involve the ‘baddies’- the Germans and Japanese in some of these commemorative events on the basis that things are not really black and white- but in general the political response and the media reaction is a sickly glorification of war and the ‘good guys’ beating the ‘bad guys,’ in some sort of ‘groundhog’ day re-run which achieves nothing. Well, it certainly achieves nothing in terms of us learning that war is a very poor problem-solving mechanism.

I mean it is not as if we have learned anything with all of this remembering. It is not as if there has been less war. It is not as if the dead do not still weep and moan at what is done in their name and what has not been learned.

It is not as if it serves any good or productive purpose. It is not as if it heals.If it healed these old men would not be crying and we would not still be waging war.

Instead it picks again at the most solid of scabs, points fingers of condemnation and encourages that base puffing and preening which better belongs in penguins than in people.

If one applies the basics of psychology, healthy recovery from trauma requires acknowledgment of past suffering and wrongs, but only in realistic terms, free from grandiosity, superiority and victimhood. One does not need to forget but neither does one dwell in the past as these annual events demand with levels of pomp and circumstance which verge on the ridiculous.

Here we are, nearly one hundred years after the end of the First World War and where are we? Has war been rejected as a problem-solving mechanism? No. Quite the opposite. Has the carnage diminished? No, quite the opposite. Have we been able to heal and move on? No, quite the opposite.

Only a fool keeps doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

Enough should be enough if nothing has been learned. The world is growing weary of war and some of us are growing even wearier of the glorification of war.

Monday, 2 June 2014

There is no death


There is no death,
just emerging
from material form,
with a shake of damp,
fresh wings of
remembering, and
a smile for the familiar,
the known and what
has always been, and
was, even in the time
of earthly forgetting,
held within the
cocoon of incarnation,
protected by the shell
of Self which caressed
for that brief time,
your eternal Soul.